Thursday, June 11, 2009

Puebla

April 28th to May 2nd

Did I mention I hate taking buses. 
Well I do and we are forced to arrive in one to Puebla. On route we miss one of Mexico's finest volcanos 'Popocatépetl' close to the town of Amecameca. I wanted to climb it so I'm cross. Sue is actually quite relieved as she never really wanted to be dragged up another volcano. At 5286m is a good big higher than the 4260m Vulcan Nevado we climbed earlier, but the views are supposed to be spectacular. Travelling is supposed to cross things off the list of 'places you want to see', but I just keep adding new ones to the 'places to return to' list. Oh well.

Puebla is a good antidote to being cross. It's another Mexican city that is almost absent from guide books and they've got it wrong again! In the Spanish world you can get a bit 'cities out'. It goes like this.
1) Huge central plaza - check.
2) Enormous cathedral - check.
3) 400 other smaller churches - check.
4) Couple of dodgy museums - check.
5) Crumbling colonial style buildings - check.

They're always nice, but it does get a bit samey.
Puebla is different. Settlers from the Spanish town Talavera came here and brought an 8th century Moorish technique for producing hand painted tiles with them. They went slightly mad after that and covered every single building with them, but it does look really good. Once you get closer you start to notice colourful individual tiles, gold leaf and moulded plaster and it's like no other Mexican city we've visited.

Of course Puebla does have the requisite central plaza and cathedral, but it's a beauty and the cathedral has the highest towers in the country so Puebla is closer to God...



It does have old colonial buildings and we sneak inside to see just how nice they are. It's very nice....



But the tiling is everywhere and it just feels a little different here....



Of course, there are the churches. Puebla is allegedly more religious than any other Mexican city..... 
Now I'm a little bemused as to just how these things get weighed or measured or whatever you do, but apparently it's true. Did they hold a competition? I know not, but apparently it's just true! 
Have faith.
Above in the background is the 17th century Iglesia Santa Domingo and the gold leaf covered mouldings inside the Capilla del Rosario are genuinely incredible . 

But I really like Puebla for the food! Birthplace of many of Mexico's traditional recipes such as tinga (meat stewed in chiles) and Mole (pronounced mol-eh) - a rich, smooth, nutty, chocolaty confusing amalgam of taste sensations absolutely nothing like the black velvet fured blind rodent thing. There is an entire market dedicated to making these wonder dishes and the women inside this building will give them all to me for just 3 dollars!



If the building looks this good - the food was even better!

But panic has spread and the flu has closed down all government run buildings here as well - schools, libraries and museums. It's a shame as Puebla again has a good reputation in this area. The musuems I mean - no idea about the schools. Luckily Puebla is a good ambling kind of place and nothing shuts down a local market. You can get anything here, provided you can find it on the overstacked stalls. 

It's OK for browsing, but a ciclista buys nothing he cannot eat....



There's an artist's quarter where easels sit out on pedestrianised streets and you can watch the painters work, their creations taking shape before your eyes. Botanical garden anyone? Rather nice for chilling out....



And here's the crumbling old colonial style buildings. Actually they're not that crumbly and Puebla has a more up market, well kept air about it than many other places. We find coffee shops here and ponder....



We're getting close to the rainy season now in Mexico, which runs roughly from May through to September. On cue, every evening at 6pm, grey curtains draw themselves over the otherwise cloudless blue skies and turn the air to liquid. I am talking biblical rain, the type that turns roads to rivers and the inside of our hotel to a swimming pool. It clenses and cools everything and is welcome now afternoon temperatures approach 3 figures....



Unfortunately after 5 days, the 'flus', sorry news about flu is no better and it looks like we will have to abondon all thoughts about seeing Mexico City.



Tomorrow - we ride East.....

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